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Nischal Shetty is the founder and current CEO of WazirX. The largest cryptocurrency exchange in India. He’s an innovator, true entrepreneur and advocate of crypto adoption. In this episode, we touch upon his journey to becoming the founder of two successful companies and becoming one of India’s most significant crypto advocates.
He tells of working in his father’s restaurant business as a child that set him up with the idea of entrepreneurship and its achievability, even in a country where at the time, startups did not exist. Nischal began programming at a young age, and as a CS student in university, he would tinker on his own projects whenever he could find the time. One of the first projects he built was an automatic downloader when even simple movie downloads could take an entire night.
Upon graduation, he went to work at a traditional company, but he would continue to work on his side projects at night and on the weekends. As a very early adopter of Twitter, Nischal began to play around with the API, and this is from where he derived his first business idea. Initially a simple follow/unfollow automated mechanism for Twitter, which then became Crowdfire a fully fleshed out social media management system.
When Nischal made more from a few days from Crowdfire than he was from a month at work, he decided it was time to focus on this startup full time. One of the essential parts of this interview is when Nischal exhorts listeners to concentrate only on what you are passionate about; else, you will not have the energy and drive to truly make something wonderful.
After building Crowdfire to a large business and in line with some Twitter API restrictions once they began some of their new ad models, he decided it was time to look for something else to work on. Coincidently it was 2017 and as a very early crypto adopter Nischal decided to focus his energy on something else he loved - decentralization. He announced that he was launching WazirX, a cryptocurrency exchange as an experiment, but the signups started flooding in, and all of a sudden, it was full build mode. Indeed an intelligent way of testing an MVP without even having the MVP. Luckily he and his team of talented engineers were able to build it out in time.
In the next section, we cover India’s cryptocurrency ban and the pivot to creating a peer to peer marketplace with an order book. This is also when Nischal truly became an advocate for fair crypto regulation and argued that by shutting down this industry in India, it was a massive hit to the technological development of the country and investments from abroad.
Lastly we spoke of the acquisition of WazirX by Binance and how he has settled as the CEO of an outside owned company. We explore the Blockchain for India Fund and the goals of WazirX looking to the future.
00:00 – 01:16 Introduction
01:16 – 3:40 The backstory to the entrepreneur bug and entering the tech space.
03:40 – 04:35 Building the automatic downloader.
04:35 – 06:58 How writing blogs lead to have a business idea.
06:58 – 08:27 First job out of University.
08:27 – 10:39 Startups at a time when they weren’t big in India
10:39 – 15:20 Office during the day, building at night. (launching Crowdfire)
15:20 – 17:01 Only do that which you are passionate about.
17:01 – 21:56 Decentralization journey.
21:56 – 24:20 The birth of WazirX.
24:20 – 26:34 A smart way to present a MVP.
26:23 - 33:46 Highlights and sorrows of WazirX (regulators, P2P innovation, court cases and media)
33:46 – 36:45 The harm of India’s crypto banking ban. Advocates for industry acceptance. Winning legally.
36:45 – 42:00 Global growth phase and acquisition by Binance.
42:00 – 45:08 Blockchain for India fund.
45:08 – 46:29 The goals of WazirX.